CAIRO: Iraq’s prime minister said Wednesday he will ask regional states to play a role in a wide-scale effort to rebuild his war-torn country if he secures a second term in office.
Nouri Al-Maliki told reporters he had invited Egyptian companies to work in Iraq and mentioned other possible joint endeavors.
Al-Maliki’s trip to Cairo, where he met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, comes amid a wider Middle East tour that seeks to drum up regional support for his quest to remain in office.
Since Iraq’s inconclusive parliamentary elections on March 7, Al-Maliki’s mostly Shia political alliance has been seeking enough allies to give it the right to control the parliament and pick Iraq’s new leaders.
Al-Maliki said Wednesday his country would "soon" have a new government, seven months after an inconclusive poll. "Discussions are taking place, we are now at the end of the tunnel, at the end of the road," said the premier, who flew in to Egypt late on Tuesday after similar visits to Iraq neighbors Syria, Jordan and Iran.
Egypt and other Sunni states have supported Al-Maliki’s rival, a Sunni-backed group headed by secular Shia Ayad Allawi.
Both Al-Maliki and Allawi have spent time making their case to regional powers.
Al-Maliki said after his meeting with Mubarak Wednesday that the two men discussed the future of Iraq’s government, but he gave no details. He also emphasized the role he hopes other countries in the Middle East will play in Iraq if he keeps his post.
"Our motto for the coming period is reconstruction and security," he said. "In order to achieve this, we need to cement our ties and sign agreements with brotherly and friendly countries," he said.
Al-Maliki said he had invited Egyptian companies to do housing, hospital, oil and electricity projects in Iraq. He also proposed a joint Iraqi-Egyptian free trade zone and new pipeline that would allow Iraqi gas exports through Egypt, pledging to cut the red tape for Egyptian firms doing business in his country.
Insecurity is "a phase which we have passed," said Al-Maliki, vowing to ensure "100 percent" security at the workplace.
Iraq wants "friendly countries to stand by our side, but at the same time we do not want anyone to interfere in the process of forming our new government," said Al-Maliki, calling for "impartiality" and "balance" from outside states.
Egyptian officials did not comment on Al-Maliki’s remarks, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said before the visit that efforts to form a new government are an internal Iraqi issue.
Al-Maliki also met with Arab League head Amr Moussa.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa (L) welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki (R) at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Oct. 20. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)